By Dan Moffett
Ed Slominski says he learned a good bit about conflict resolution while running successful businesses in the Northeast.
Where better now to use that knowledge than his adopted hometown of Gulf Stream, where there has been so much conflict and not a hint of resolution in recent years?
Slominski has been working behind the scenes this summer to broker a settlement deal between the town and its two harshest critics, Martin O’Boyle and Chris O’Hare. The idea is to get everyone to the bargaining table, drop the lawsuits and countersuits, and end the costly hostilities.
“There’s so much ego here between the parties,” Slominski says. “Both sides are damaging Gulf Stream’s brand and the community by their actions.”
A growing number of Gulf Stream residents, Slominski believes, have become weary of the court fights that have drained the town’s budget. Town commissioners have set aside $1 million for the next fiscal year to cover the legal expenses from dozens of lawsuits pending with O’Boyle and O’Hare.
“You’ve got wealthy people who’ve decided you can spend money just because you’re right,” Slominski says. “A lot of privileged people got their dander up. That has to stop.”
He finds some fault and some merit on all sides: Town officials have been guilty of selective enforcement of some rules, Slominski says, but O’Boyle and O’Hare have gone too far in their attacks, many of which have been public and personal. The more than 1,500 requests for public records O’Boyle and O’Hare have made to town officials haven’t helped either.
The town’s lawyers, however, overreached in their response, Slominski says, when they filed a RICO lawsuit against the two men this year — a suit that a federal judge threw out in June. In the wake of that dismissal, Slominski has been pitching resolution to all who will listen.
He has floated a plan for settlement negotiations to Mayor Scott Morgan and O’Boyle and O’Hare.
Slominski’s idea is to have all parties contribute to a fund as a show of good faith — perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars each — money that would go to charitable causes. That would help repair damage done to Gulf Stream’s brand, he says.
The more difficult work would begin then with all sides coming to the table and agreeing to resolve their issues and drop their lawsuits.
Reaction to Slominski’s proposal has been muted. Morgan has referred settlement talks to the town’s lawyers and publicly expressed skepticism about the level of good intentions on the other side.
Gulf Stream, the mayor says, thought it had resolved all issues with O’Boyle two years ago when it settled a court case over his home renovation plans. But then his lawsuits resumed shortly after.
Jonathan O’Boyle, Martin’s son and a lawyer affiliated with the O’Boyle Law Firm, says the family is open to negotiation.
“I have heard about settlement only in the form of getting both sides to talk (something that has been utterly impossible and still may be — let’s see),” Jonathan O’Boyle said in an email to The Coastal Star. “Ed [Slominski] has identified this situation as a runaway train and wants the commission to talk to the litigants, something that Morgan has publicly averred he would not do as leader of the town. If this trend is not reversed, then neither will the trend in rising taxes.”
Slominski, a technology entrepreneur who moved to the Place Au Soleil neighborhood from Boston 10 years ago, has no illusions about the road ahead. But he says the alternative is possible bankruptcy for the town. If settlement efforts fail, Slominksi says, he intends to go to the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General and ask for intervention from higher powers.
By Dan Moffett